El Gran Caribe: Las ligas de la diplomacia, del fútbol al béisbol y el críquet

The Greater Caribbean: Diplomacy leagues, from soccer to baseball to cricket.


06 | 05 | 2024


Sport is an essential connector between the countries at the center of the Western Hemisphere.

In the picture

Barack Obama and Raul Castro attend a friendly baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team Havana, 2016 [White House, Pete Souza].

The Caribbean Sea does not separate North and South America, but is a powerful connector of the countries that occupy the center of the Western Hemisphere, linking the islands with each other and with the mainland. Few realities have proved more effective in that connecting task than sports: baseball, which is played in the United States, Cuba and Venezuela; cricket, which amalgamates the former English colonies; and soccer, which places the Guyanas not in the South American federation, but in the federation that brings together the countries bordering the Greater Caribbean, from the United States to Panama.


The role of the Caribbean as a nexus linking coastal countries with others is especially symbolized in the way soccer federations are organized. Thus, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) also includes Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, thus uniting all the countries of the Greater Caribbean (the perimeter formed by the sea itself and the other adjacent Atlantic areas). The only exceptions are Colombia and Venezuela, also with a Caribbean coast, which are part of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol). Concacaf also includes Canada and El Salvador, the only Central American country with only a Pacific coastline.

CONCACAF is made up of 41 affiliated teams. The North American members are Canada, the United States and Mexico; the Central American members are Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; and the Caribbean members are Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Lesser Antilles. The participation of territorial entities that are not independent states, such as Puerto Rico or small islands that are dependencies of the Netherlands or the United Kingdom (Aruba, Curaçao, Dominica, Cayman Islands...) constitutes a great opportunity for interaction among the different populations. There are also the former English Guiana (Guyana) and Dutch Guiana (Suriname) and also the French Guiana (department of overseas France), which despite being on the continent have historically had a close link with the Caribbean due to colonization issues and language.

CONCACAF is responsible for organizing national team competitions for men and women, in addition to regional club championships. Among the most important championships are the Gold Cup, which is the most important regional championship among the national teams and is played every two years, and the Nations League, which is the qualifying qualifier for the FIFA World Cup, where the teams with the highest score qualify directly for the World Cup (the fourth team goes to a playoff match with another team from the world). Precisely, North America will host the 2026 World Cup, with matches in Canada, the United States and Mexico; their respective national teams are assured a place, which this time will allow the qualification of more Concacaf members.

The South American Soccer Confederation, or Conmebol, is the organization made up of the 10 federations located in South America: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is in charge of organizing the Copa América (regional national team championship), Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana championships. It also organizes the qualifiers for participation in the FIFA World Cup, where all teams play against each other twice and the five teams with the best score qualify directly for the World Cup (the sixth team goes to a playoff match with another team in the world).

The Guianas

The anomaly of the Guianas, already mentioned, is due to the fact that these territories share more cultural similarities with the Caribbean countries because of their colonial history. Suriname was a colony of the Netherlands and Guyana of the United Kingdom, which historically gave them a closer relationship with the Caribbean islands, of similar colonization; the geographical issue -the Guiana massif, the Orinoco and the Amazon- made it difficult for them to link with the rest of South America and pushed them towards the sea. South America has always been a space of Spanish and Portuguese dominion.

In addition to this, there is a reason of skill and organization. In Conmebol there are particularly strong teams, such as Brazil, five times world champion, and Argentina and Uruguay, three times each. Therefore, the level is much higher compared to that of the teams that make up Concacaf, so the Guyanese teams prefer to compete where they find more balanced opponents and there can be a real skill. The Concacaf system also offers some leveling out to those teams that do not have great features, by classifying them into three groups (A, B and C). French Guiana, being an overseas department , is not a member of FIFA, although it does take part in certain CONCACAF competitions with the permission of the French Football Federation.


In addition to soccer, the king sport in much of Latin America, there are other sports in the region with great relevance and popular interest. This is the case of baseball, the second most celebrated sport, even more than soccer itself in some countries, all of them in the Greater Caribbean; and also cricket, widely practiced in places of English tradition, especially in the eastern Caribbean and also in part of the Guyanas.

The map above shows this distribution of the different fans, taking into account the weight of issue of spectators and athletes of each discipline. Although in the United States the most followed sport is American soccer, the map highlights the great tradition of baseball in that country, which explains its extension to places such as Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The participation in the U.S. leagues of players from these other countries speaks of a popular connection that often overcomes the political tensions of the moment (in his historic visit to Cuba, Barack Obama attended a baseball game with Raul Castro).

The map does not really do justice to baseball, because while soccer is dominant in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, baseball is the second most important sport in many of these nations of the central American area . In Mexico, for example, the weight of one sport or another depends on the region: baseball prevails in the north, more linked to the United States, and the south, more related to the Caribbean, while soccer dominates in the center of the country. Something similar happens in countries like Colombia, where the Caribbean coasts also prefer baseball; in Venezuela the preference is more generalized.

Finally, cricket is the most important sport in the eastern Caribbean and in other British colonized islands, such as Jamaica. This is also the case in Guyana, on the mainland.